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Coupling in the digital age

Should you give your partner access to your e-mails or social media messages?

Should you give your partner access to your e-mails or social media messages?

From knowing each other’s passwords to over-sharing on social media, dating in the digital age can be a bit of a minefield. Jo Caruana discovers how best to navigate the wired waters.

The last time I shared updates of a new boyfriend with friends over dinner, they all snatched at their phones and proceeded to bury their noses in his Facebook timeline, Twitter feed, Instagram page and Google search results.

While I barely knew anything about him, they were soon regaling me with stories about what he’d gotten up to on his birthday, where he last went on holiday, what causes he supported and even what he’d had for breakfast.

Welcome to dating in the digital age – if you’re sharing information online then it will be found.

Of course there are benefits to this sort of thing. For starters, an online search may well alert you to something sinister about your prospective partner that you can choose to get out in the open and talk about. It may even prove you have lots in common and help to enlighten you about things they like or dislike. That said, even when your relationship does get off the ground, technology can pose some interesting questions. For instance, should you ever share your most important passwords with your better half, or should you take them with you to the grave?

Similarly, should you give your partner access to your e-mails or social media messages, or is it better to keep them to yourself? Sadly, research shows that technology – and particularly smartphones and social media – can have a negative affect on your relationship. To begin with, talking to your partner over a screen can make it easier to lash out – perhaps by sending a hurtful text message without taking the time to think of a tactful response or reacting to their emotions in person. This can make arguments spiral out of control.

Similarly, messages can be easily misinterpreted without what psychologists call ‘prosody’ or the intonation that comes across in your voice. Without the right interpretation, for instance, ‘see you later’ in text can sound angry instead of excited, and can be easily misinterpreted.  Then there’s the fact that constantly checking your phone interrupts your quality time together. While it may be handy to be simultaneously connected to everyone from your best friend to your colleagues, that often means we’re not giving our full attention to the person we’re actually with, which can make it difficult to connect on a fundamental level.

The important thing to remember is that the digital world can never replace the physical one, especially when it comes to romantic relationships. And that is exactly why it makes sense to focus on the person you love in the real world rather than in the cyber one. But how, exactly, can you bridge the gap between technology and a happy relationship? Here are some ideas.

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